Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Burger and a Beer: Royal Tavern

By now a senior member of the recent explosion of gastropubs in Philadelphia, Royal Tavern has been garnering praise from a wide sector of Philly foodies ever since it opened its doors. After far too long a period of good intentions, I finally paid it a visit recently. I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy a burger and a beer before a show at the TLA (recently and ridiculously renamed “Fillmore at the TLA,” but that’s another story…). So, we headed over to Bella Vista early in the evening, avoiding the crowds and crap on South Street in favor of an easy walk down Passyunk Avenue.

Straight off, I knew it was my kind of bar. Basic setup, dark but not so dark you can’t see, a little funk in the air but not so much as to scare your new friends away, and a bar at which it’s comfortable enough to eat. If you’re self-conscious about your lack of ink – I’m not – The Royal might not become your new daily hang. But if you’re looking for a bar with a friendly vibe and good tunes, you’re there… Neil Young and Mission of Burma in the same set. Not bad.

The beer list is not overly ambitious but is thoughtful and has enough of a variety for just about anyone, from $2 PBR’s to regional small batch brews to big Belgian bottles. I settled in with a freshly pulled pint of Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner while perusing the menu. Actually, honestly, I barely looked at the menu other than to see how they prepare their house burger. That’s what I’d come for. My dining buddy, though, wasn’t exactly quick on the decision so I had plenty of time to enjoy my beer and relax. Brooklyn’s brew master, Garrett Oliver, produces some of the most reliable, characterful and well-balanced beers made in the Northeast US. I’ve always enjoyed Brooklyn Pilsner from bottle but on tap it seemed to lack just a little in the way of refreshing bitterness. It might have made a decent session beer but I knew it wouldn’t be up to the task of the burger to come so I perused the taps for a likely next pour. Settling on Stone IPA, I sat back in wait for food.

The Royal Tavern Angus Burger: a medium sized patty of good quality, properly fatty ground beef on a slightly oversized brioche bun; caramelized onions, bacon, smoked Gouda and long hots. Fries, served with a malt vinegar mayo, come with as the standard side but can be subbed out for any number of other options. I take my burger medium-rare. For me, it’s the ideal degree of doneness but it seems to be the temp that kitchens struggle with the most. This one may have come out a little closer to medium but was still satisfyingly juicy. The bacon was crisped just enough to retain its fleshiness without being rubbery, the onions were well browned but not done to the point of intense sweetness and the cheese lent a solid, smoky accent to the whole package. The long hots? Well, that’s another story. Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost my tolerance for extremes of capsaicin. Through the first half of the burger, I barely noticed the peppers’ presence. I think they had somehow managed to coil up in a corner of the roll. When I hit them, it was not pleasant. Not enough to make me choke but enough to get the sweat rolling profusely down my brow. Needless to say, I performed a bit of pepper pruning. I wasn’t about to forego the rest of the burger, after all.

Royal Tavern
937 E. Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA
Royal Tavern in Philadelphia


Taylor said...

Ah, Royal Tavern! I love that place - and I don't even eat real burgers or drink beer.

Katelyn said...

That burger sounds hellaciously yummy. And I'm even vegetarian!! Glad I found your blog.

David McDuff said...

Hey Taylor,
Good to hear from you. The burger part I can understand as I was a pretty strict vegetarian for many years in my earlier days. But beer? I know from reading Mac & Cheese that you don't abstain from alcoholic beverages. So what's not to like?

Welcome! And thanks for stopping in. Please tell all your friends. Sorry if I made you contemplate the dark side.

I think I feel a new blog coming on: "The Vegetarian Omnivore" or perhaps "Un-Burger and a Beer."

Taylor said...

Hey David,
I'll drink anything alcoholic - even moonshine - but beer has always invoked a gag reflex. I simply cannot get it down. No problem. More beer for everyone else in the world!

I did wine and Moore Bros. in Wilmington! Yay! If only they (DE) could get wine in the grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Though I couldn't be more tickled to see your Royal Tavern mini-review tucked between two posts "Exploring Burgundy," I think if I had to choose a region most representative of our Mission of Burma meets Neil Young-style it would have to be the Southwest. I have no quibbles with your choice of burger and beer, but I encourage carnivores and vegans alike to come air their differences while imbibing the delicious, rustic Domaine du Cros Marcillac (Wine Traditions) that we're pouring by the glass this summer.
T.E. Farris
Royal Tavern wine gal

David McDuff said...

Right on, T.E.!
The Cros Marcillac "Lo Sang del Pais" is one of my favorite burger wines of all time and is a great choice for hearty pub grub of all kinds. I have to admit that I didn't even give wine a thought when I was at RoyalT; I'll be sure to remedy that on my next visit.

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